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J Appl Psychol. 2009 Jan;94(1):34-47. doi: 10.1037/a0012981.

Sexual behavior at work: Fun or folly?

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  • 1University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Sexual behavior at work (e.g., sexual jokes and propositions) has been largely portrayed as offensive and harmful. The current research represents the first studies to test whether this is typically the case. Study 1 surveyed manufacturing and social service workers (N = 238) about their psychological well-being, work withdrawal, and exposure to sexual behavior at work. Respondents indicated how often they were exposed to different sexual behaviors and how much they enjoyed or were bothered by them. Study 2 surveyed university staff (N = 1,004) about their psychological well-being, drug use, feelings of being valued at work, and exposure to sexual behavior at work. Fifty-eight percent of employees in Study 1 were exposed to sexual behavior in the past 2 years; 40% of employees in Study 2 were exposed to sexual behavior in the past year. Some women and many men reported enjoying sexual behavior at work. Despite this, exposure to sexual behavior at work predicted negative employee work and psychological well-being, even for employees who said they enjoyed the experience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved).

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